This is a news story that is not going to go away soon, for good and for bad. Good in that it's important for all of us to learn from what happened here (though it it likely that something like this will never happen again) and bad in that the anti-gunners are going to run with it regardless of what the family's wishes are.
I'm impressed (and surprised) by the following report from the Statesman but it confirms what many of us were speculating from the onset: Mrs. Rutledge was a responsible, legal and experienced concealed-weapon carrier who, unfortunately, was the victim of a one-of-a-kind freak accident. Who ever would have guessed that a 2-year-old child would unzip and remove that firearm, much less discharge it...and strike his mother killing her? It just doesn't happen. Accidents happen and they can't all be avoided and prevented. Period.
While the socialists who want us all disarmed attempt to run with this, let's all do our part by: A. Learn from this experience and, B. Not let anyone try to distort the facts that have come from the investigation and, more especially, the testimonies of her family members. This family doesn't want any infringements on the Second Amendment any more than the rest of us do.
That's what matters.
By Becky Kramer and Nina Culver
31 December 2014
HAYDEN, Idaho — A nuclear research scientist died Tuesday after her 2-year-old son pulled a loaded pistol from her purse and shot her while she was shopping at the Wal-Mart store in Hayden.
The horrific accident quickly attracted international attention, with media outlets worldwide carrying the story of Veronica J. Rutledge’s death.
Rutledge, a 29-year-old resident of Blackfoot, Idaho, died instantly.
“She was a beautiful, young, loving mother who was taken much too soon,” said her father-in-law Terry Rutledge. “She was out on what was supposed to be a fun-filled day with her son and nieces.”
Rutledge, an employee of the Idaho National Laboratory, was visiting family in Hayden with her husband, Colt. She had taken the children to Wal-Mart so they could spend their holiday gift cards. Her son, who was riding in a shopping cart, got a hold of the loaded pistol in her purse and shot her at 10:20 a.m. in the store’s electronics department.
The gun was in the zippered pocket of a purse designed to hold a concealed weapon, Terry Rutledge said Wednesday.
“She was not an irresponsible mother, who just said, ‘Oh, I want a gun and went to the gun store and tossed it loosely into her purse.’ The purse was designed a built-in holster,” he said. “Unfortunately, an inquisitive 2-year-old boy unzipped the compartment while his mother was looking at clothing with her three young nieces, and accessed the gun.”
The purse with the holster was a Christmas gift from Veronica Rutledge's husband, Colt.
“She generally carried on her person,” Terry Rutledge said. “They’d been looking at another way for her to carry. Something that was comfortable.”
In the widespread attention that the shooting has received, he said he’s concerned about how his daughter-in-law is being portrayed.
“I don’t want her portrayed as being irresponsible or careless. That wasn’t the case,” Terry Rutledge said.
The store on U.S. Highway 95 closed after the shooting so sheriff’s deputies could interview witnesses. It reopened Wednesday at 6 a.m.
Rutledge married Colt Rutledge in 2009, and the couple had one son.
She grew up as Veronica Hendricks in Harrison, where she was the 2004 valedictorian of Kootenai High School. She attended North Idaho College, graduated from the University of Idaho, and went to work for the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, which supports the U.S. Department of Energy in nuclear and energy research and national defense.
“She was a chemical engineer, a very bright young lady,” said a family member, who asked not to be named. “We considered her a rising star.”
A picture of Rutledge in her lab coat appears in a short online video produced by Idaho National Laboratory, promoting higher education.
Rutledge was a hard worker who “wanted to know science,” said Idaho National Laboratory senior chemical Engineer Vince Maio, who worked with Rutledge on a research paper about using glass ceramic to store nuclear waste.
Maio said he was immediately impressed with Rutledge when he met her.
“She had a lot of maturity for her age,” he said. “Her work was impeccable. She found new ways to do things that we did before and she found ways to do them better.”
Rutledge was fun to work with and had a bright smile, he said.
“She was a beautiful person.”
Rutledge had a concealed weapons permit. She and her husband were Second Amendment advocates who strongly believed in the right to carry handguns, the family member said. He described them as “outdoorsy, responsible people” who practiced gun safety. He was at a loss to explain how the accident could have occurred.
Bringing a loaded gun into the Hayden Wal-Mart was not a violation of store policy. The national retailer’s corporate policy is to defer to state and local laws that pertain to carrying firearms in public, said Aaron Mullins, a Wal-Mart spokesman in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Idaho law allows concealed weapons in most public places, with the exception of courthouses, jails, K-12 schools and juvenile detention facilities.
The city of Hayden’s code matches state law on concealed weapons in public places, said Stefan Chatwin, city administrator. However, private property owners can restrict concealed weapons on their property, he said.
There do not appear to be reliable national statistics about the number of accidental fatalities involving children handling guns.
In neighboring Washington state, a 3-year-old boy was seriously injured in November when he was accidentally shot in the face by a 4-year-old neighbor. The boy was wounded as the children played in a home in Lake Stevens, about 30 miles north of Seattle.
In April, a 2-year-old boy apparently shot and killed his 11-year-old sister while they and their siblings played with a gun inside a Philadelphia home. Authorities said the gun was believed to have been brought into the home by the mother's boyfriend.
Hayden is a politically conservative town of about 9,000 people just north of Coeur d'Alene, in Idaho's northern panhandle.
Idaho lawmakers passed legislation earlier this year allowing concealed weapons on the state's public college and university campuses.
Despite facing opposition from all eight of the state's university college presidents, lawmakers sided with gun rights advocates who said the law would better uphold the Second Amendment.
Under the law, gun holders are barred from bringing their weapons into dormitories or buildings that hold more than 1,000 people, such as stadiums or concert halls.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Updated 01 January 2015
Veronica Rutledge and her husband loved everything about guns. They practiced at shooting ranges. They hunted. And both of them, relatives and friends say, had permits to carry concealed firearms. Veronica typically left her Blackfoot home with her gun nestled at her side. So on Christmas morning last week, her husband gave her a present he hoped would make her life more comfortable: a purse with a special pocket for a concealed weapon.
The day after Christmas, she took her new gift with her on a trip with her husband and her 2-year-old son. They headed hundreds of miles north to the end of a country road where Terry Rutledge, her husband’s father, lived. The father-in-law learned of the new purse.
"It was designed for that purpose — to carry a concealed firearm," Rutledge said in an interview late Tuesday night. "And you had to unzip a compartment to find the handgun."
On Tuesday morning, that was exactly what Veronica Rutledge’s son did — with the most tragic of outcomes. Veronica, 29, arrived at a nearby Wal-Mart in Hayden with her three nieces and son, her gun "zippered closed" inside her new purse, her father-in-law said. Then, in the back of the store, near the electronics section, the purse was left unattended for a moment.
"An inquisitive 2-year-old boy reached into the purse, unzipped the compartment, found the gun and shot his mother in the head," Rutledge said. "It’s a terrible, terrible incident."
The aftermath has been crushing, he said. His son went to the Wal-Mart to collect his nieces and son, and no one now is sure what to say to the boy, who is not doing well.
"My son is terrible," Rutledge said. "He has a 2-year-old boy right now who doesn’t know where his mom is and he’ll have to explain why his mom isn’t coming home. And then, later on his life, as he questions it more, he’ll again have to explain what happened, so we’ll have to relive this several times over."
Rutledge isn’t just sad — he’s angry. Not at his grandson. Nor at his dead daughter-in-law, "who didn’t have a malicious fiber in her body," he said. He’s angry at the observers already using the accident as an excuse to grandstand on gun rights.
"They are painting Veronica as irresponsible, and that is not the case," he said. ". . . I brought my son up around guns, and he has extensive experience shooting it. And Veronica had had handgun classes; they’re both licensed to carry, and this wasn’t just some purse she had thrown her gun into."
The path Veronica Rutledge charted before her death, friends and family say, was one of academics and small-town, country living. "Hunting, being outdoors and being with her son" was what made her happiest, her friend Rhonda Ellis said. She was raised in northeast Idaho and always excelled at school, former high school classmate Kathleen Phelps said, recalling her as "extremely smart. . . . valedictorian of our class, very motivated and the smartest person I know. . . . Getting good grades was always very important to her."
She went on to graduate in 2010 from the University of Idaho with a chemistry degree, according to a commencement program. From there, she got a job at Battelle’s Idaho National Laboratory and published several articles, one of which analyzed a method to absorb toxic waste discharged by burning nuclear fuel.
While away from the lab, she and her husband, whom she married in 2009, spent time shooting guns. "She was just as comfortable at a camp ground or a gun range as she was in a classroom," close friend Sheri Sandow said in an interview. On Facebook, she showed an interest in the outdoors and the National Rifle Association, and followed Guns.com, a publication that reports on gun life.
"They carried one every day of their lives, and they shot extensively," Rutledge said. "They loved it. Odd as it may sound, we are gun people."
A lot of people in Idaho are. Earlier this year, the state legislature passed a bill that allows people to carry concealed guns onto state university campuses. And more than 85,000 people — 7 percent of the population — are licensed to carry concealed weapons, according to the Crime Prevention Research Center.
So many locals didn’t discern anything odd with 29-year-old woman carrying a loaded gun into a Wal-Mart during the holiday season. Stu Miller, a spokesman for the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, told the New York Times that it didn’t strike him as anything out of the ordinary. "It’s pretty common around here," he said. "A lot of people carry loaded guns."
Sandow told The Post she often sees people with a gun cradled at their side. "In Idaho, we don’t have to worry about a lot of crime and things like that," she said. "And to see someone with a gun isn’t bizarre. 1/8Veronica 3/8 wasn’t carrying a gun because she felt unsafe. She was carrying a gun because she was raised around guns. This was just a horrible accident."